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The Shafi'i (Arabic: شافعي Šāfiʿī ) madhhab is one of the four schools of Islamic law in Sunni Islam. It was founded by the Arab scholar Al-Shafi'i in the early 9th century. The other three schools of Sunni jurisprudence are Hanafi, Maliki and Hanbali.
The Shafi school predominantly relies on the Quran and the Hadiths for Sharia. Where passages of Quran and Hadiths are ambiguous, the school first seeks religious law guidance from Ijma – the consensus of Sahabah (Muhammad's companions). If there was no consensus, Shafi'i school relies on individual opinion (Ijtihad) of the companions of Muhammad, followed by analogy.
The Shafi'i school was, in the early history of Islam, the most followed ideology for Sharia. However, with Ottoman Empire's expansion and patronage, it was replaced with the Hanafi school in many parts of the Muslim world. One of the many differences between the Shafi'i and Hanafi schools is that the Shafi'i school does not consider Istihsan (personal preference of Islamic legal scholars) as an acceptable source of religious law because it amounts to "human legislation" of Islamic law.
The Shafi'i school is now predominantly found in Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, eastern Egypt, the Swahili Coast, Yemen, Kurdish regions of the Middle East, Palestine, Lebanon, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, some coastal parts of Sri Lanka, India, Singapore, Myanmar, Thailand, Brunei, and the Philippines.
The Shafi'i school of thought stipulates authority to five sources of jurisprudence. In hierarchical order, the school relies upon the following sources for Islamic law: the Quran, the hadiths - that is, sayings, customs and practices of Muhammad, the ijmā' (consensus of Sahabah, the community of Muhammad's companions), the individual opinions of Sahaba with preference to one closest to the issue as Ijtihad, and finally qiyas (analogy). The Shafi'i school rejects two sources of Sharia that are accepted in other major schools of Islam - Istihsan (juristic preference, promoting the interest of Islam) and Istislah (public interest). The jurisprudence principle of Istihsan and Istislah admitted religious laws that had no textual basis in either the Quran or Hadiths, but were based on the opinions of Islamic scholars as promoting the interest of Islam and its universalization goals. The Shafi'i school rejected these two principles stating that these methods rely on subjective human opinions, its potential for corruption and adjustment to political context and time.
The foundational text for the Shafi'i school is Al-Risala (or, The Message) by the founder of the school, Al-Shafi'i. It outlines the principles of Shafi'i fiqh as well as the derived jurisprudence. Al-Risala became an influential book to other Sunni Islam fiqhs as well, as the oldest surviving Arabic work on Islamic legal theory.
The Shafi'i madhab was spread by Al-Shafi'i students in Cairo, Mecca and Baghdad. It became widely accepted in early history of Islam. The chief representative of the Iraqi school was Abu Ishaq al-Shirazi, whilst in Khorasan Shafi'i school was spread by al-Juwayni and al-Iraqi. These two branches merged around Ibn al-Salah and his father, before being reviewed and refined by al-Rafi'i and al-Nawawi.
The Shafi'i jurisprudence was adopted as the official law during the Great Seljuq Empire, Zengid dynasty, Ayyubid dynasty and later the Mamluk Sultanate (Cairo), where it saw its widest application. It was also adopted by the Kathiri state in Hadhramawt and most of rule of the Sharif of Mecca.
With the establishment and expansion of Ottoman Empire in West Asia and Turkic Sultanates in Central and South Asia, Shafi'i school was replaced with Hanafi school, in part because Hanafites allowed Istihsan (juristic preference) that allowed the rulers flexibility in interpreting the religious law to their administrative preferences. The Sultanates along the littoral regions of the Horn of Africa and the Arabian peninsula adhered to the Shafi'i school and were the primary drivers of its maritime military expansion into many Asian and East African coastal regions of the Indian Ocean, particularly from the 12th through the 18th century.
The Shafi'i school is presently predominant in the following parts of the Muslim world:
- Africa: Djibouti, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, eastern Egypt, and the Swahili Coast.
- Middle East: Yemen, Kurdish regions of the Middle East, Israel, Lebanon, minor parts of Jordan, Palestine and Saudi Arabia
- Caucasus: parts of Azerbaijan
- Asia: Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, western coast of Indian peninsula, Singapore, Myanmar, Thailand, Brunei, and the southern islands of the Philippines.
Shafi'i school is the second largest school of Sunni madhhabs by number of adherents, states Saeed in his 2008 book. However, a UNC publication considers the Maliki school as second largest, and the Hanafi madhhab the largest, with Shafi'i as third largest. The demographic data by each fiqh, for each nation, are unavailable and the relative demographic size are estimates.
Shafi'i madhhab considers apostasy, that is the act of leaving Islam or converting to another religion or becoming an atheist, as a religious crime. The school requires a waiting period of three days to allow the Muslim apostate to repent and return to Islam. After the wait, execution is the traditional recommended punishment for both men and women apostates.
Shafi'i school, as with other Muslim fiqhs, considers apostasy as a civil liability in addition to it being a criminal offense. Therefore, (a) the property of the apostate is seized and distributed to his or her Muslim relatives; (b) his or her marriage annulled (faskh); (c) any children removed and considered ward of the Islamic state. In case the entire family has left Islam, or there are no surviving Muslim relatives recognized by Sharia, the apostate's property is liquidated by the Islamic state (part of fay, الْفيء). Shafi'i Sunni school of jurisprudence does not consider any wait as mandatory before the Islamic authorities can seize the children and property of the apostate.
Shafi'i school considers blasphemy as any action, speech or behavior that degrades, insults or questions Allah, Muhammad, beliefs, symbols, holy texts, fatwas and customs common in Islam. The school considers blasphemy as a separate offense from apostasy, but accepts the repentance of blasphemers. If the blasphemer does not repent, the punishment is death for both men and women.
Shafi'i jurists state that adultery by a married man or woman, or other religiously disallowed sex (homosexuality), must be punished by Rajm (stoning). If the accused is unmarried, the stoning punishment is reduced to public lashing. For evidence, Shafi'i fiqh accepts the following: self-confession, or testimony of four male witnesses (female witness is not acceptable), or contested pregnancy. Unlike Maliki scholars who always considered contested pregnancy in an unmarried woman as "public evidence of zina", some Shafi'i jurists, however, disagreed. They stated that stoning is unwarranted in a divorced but currently unmarried pregnant woman, because the Quran and Hadiths do not reveal pregnancy as acceptable evidence of zina crime, and that a pregnancy may last 4 to 7 years.
Like Hanafi school, Shafi'i Islamic law literature specifies two types of stoning. One, when the punishment is based on bayyina, or concrete evidence such as four male witnesses or pregnancy. In this case the person is bound, a pit dug, the bound person placed and partially buried inside the pit so that he or she may not escape, thereafter the public stoning punishment is executed. A woman sentenced to stoning must be partially buried up to her chest. The first stones are thrown by the Imam or his deputy in all cases, under Shafi'i law, followed by the Muslim community witnessing the stoning punishment. In second type of stoning, when the punishment is based on self-confession, the stoning is to performed without digging a pit or partially burying the person. In this case, after the stoning has started and the person flees, the person is allowed to leave.
Mahr is the religiously mandatory dower (brideprice) a Muslim man or his family must pay to the bride in order to enter into a legal marriage in Islam. Shafi'i school, unlike other schools of Sunni Islam, does not place any minimum amount requirement on Mahr. Al-Shafi'i, the founder of the school, explained the rational as follows,
The dower is a price (thaman) among prices, so whatever they consent to as a dower that has a value (qima) is permitted, just as whatever a buyer and seller (mutabaian) of anything that has a value [agree to] is permitted.
Shafi'i legal scholars, like Maliki jurists, dedicated a significant portion of their legal analysis on slave law. The slave law literature discussed ownership rights over slaves captured in war or purchased in slave markets, the duties of the slaves, punishment of slaves who steal or have illegal sex or commit other crimes, rights of men to force sex on a slave with or without consent, requirements of master's permission and the process by which a slave can legally marry, inheritance of slavery by a slave's children, how masters can will, gift or sell their slaves.
In their war doctrine, Shafi'i jurists established four valid choices before Muslims, after any successful raid or war against unbelievers, regarding civilian male and female captives taken – execute them, ransom them and demand wealth for their release, exchange them for Muslim prisoners with the unbelievers, and condemn them as your slaves for own use or to sell them. Some Shafi'i jurists suggested that captives may be released without ransom, in some cases, under Islamic law. The legal scholars also developed the doctrine for emancipation of slaves of those who convert to Islam, at the desire of the master, and their consequent rights as free person. The resultant Sharia doctrines on slavery remained in use, in parts of the Muslim world, till early 20th century, when they were abolished under global pressure for secular human rights in matters related to slavery.
The Shafi'i school did not consider slavery, including sexual use of slaves, as anything other than a transaction of goods. Al Shafi'i and Abu Hanifa (founder of Hanafi Sunni school) compared sexual use of slave with marriage. In both cases, stated Al-Shafi'i, the essential similarity is that they are both a transaction granting sexual licitness for compensation. Buying a slave girl gives the Muslim man the legal right to have sex with her, with or without consent. The difference between paying for a slave girl and paying for a marriage, under Shafi'i interpretation of law, is that the man has more limited access rights over his wife and his children from the Muslim wife have property inheritance rights. Shafi'i scholars also clarified that while a Muslim man can legally have sex with slave girls he owns, a Muslim woman cannot legally have sex with slave boys she owns and any such sexual activity is zina.
Like other Sunni schools of Sharia, in Shafi'i school, a slave must have his or her master's permission to be married. However, Shafi'i school required that the slave must get the permission before marriage, unlike others which allowed the Muslim master to grant permission after-the-marriage.
- Shafi'i scholars, like other major schools of Sunni fiqh, considered minimum age of marriage to be 12 for boys and 9 for girls. They also defined the age of majority (adulthood) to be 18 for boys and 17 for girls, after which they could sign their own marriage contract. A guardian had the legal right to arrange and complete the marriage of a minor.
- Traditional Shafi'i text state that a man can divorce his wife, but a wife is not allowed to initiate divorce.
- Touching a marriageable person of the opposite sex invalidates ritual purity.
- Shafi'i school was the first to justify, as Islamic law, that the proper cause to wage war, jihad, on unbelievers, was their disbelief (kufr). War must be waged, they stated, not merely when the unbelievers attacked or actively started a conflict with Muslims, but the unbelievers must be attacked "wherever Muslims may find them" because they are unbelievers. However, Shafi'i scholars clarified that not every Muslim is obligated to fight. This rationalization of war against unbelievers was influential on other schools. For example, the 11th century Islamic scholar Sarakhsi of Hanafi school adopted this Shafi'i doctrine, in his Kitab al-Mabsut, and ruled that Muslims must fight the unbelievers as "a duty enjoined permanently until the end of time". However, this historical interpretation and justification for jihad and unprovoked war from Quran and Hadiths, has been challenged by some modern Islamic scholars.
- Although other schools of thought forbid playing chess, some Shafi'is deem it disliked.
- Music, dancing and singing was declared forbidden under Islamic law by Al-Shafi'i, a religious position similar to other Sunni fiqhs. Al-Shafi'i and other scholars recommended destruction of all musical instruments. The early 12th century Shafi'i and Sufi scholar Al-Ghazali acknowledged these positions of Sunni scholars, but offered his own revisionist analysis of Quran and Hadiths to suggest that another interpretation of these primary texts suggest certain types of music and singing should be acceptable in Islam. Al-Ghazali agreed that songs and music are forbidden if they contain sexual language, are seductive, disruptive, blasphemous or unlawful in their substance; he also agreed that songs and music are forbidden during prayers and various Islamic rituals. The 14th century Shafi'i scholar Al-Misri stated, "singing and all musical instruments including flutes, strings, mandolin, lute, cymbals are forbidden and their illicit use reflected pre-Islamic period of ignorance"; he also ruled that listening to these was unlawful in Shafi'i fiqh.
- Painting of a picture of any living thing (taswir) was declared religiously forbidden and unlawful by Shafi'i scholars.
- Historical Shafi'i texts endorsed the practise of female circumcision (FGM), with Al-Shafi'i declaring it mandatory for both males and females.
- Shaving the beard is considered a forbidden action whereas other schools dislike .
Contemporary Shafi'i scholars
- Wahba Zuhayli
- Ali Gomaa
- Habib Umar bin Hafiz
- Habib Ali al-Jifri
- Abdullah al-Harari
- Afifi al-Akiti
- Hasyim Muzadi
- Aboobacker Ahmad
- Nuh Ha Mim Keller
- Mohammad Salim Al-Awa
- Ahmed Kuftaro
- Ahmad Syafi'i Maarif
- Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas
- Taha Jabir Alalwani
- Zaid Shakir
- Cherussery Zainuddeen Musliyar
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- Islamic views on sin
- Blasphemy in Islam
- Apostasy in Islam
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